EAST Lancashire’s museums will be offering late-night opening to encourage more people to step inside.

Visitors can get close to beetles, pythons and fire-eaters at this year’s Festival of Wonders.

The annual event, part of the Museums At Night campaign to encourage new people to visit museums, galleries and libraries by opening later, starts on Thursday.

For three nights, historic spaces all over the UK will open up late and put on special displays with events taking place across East Lancashire.

The initiative has been paid for with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Festival of Wonders co-ordinator Elaine Lees said an army of volunteers would help staff the events. She said: “The HLF money is used to put on the events but not to pay wages to staff or costs of opening. So we will have lots of volunteers helping at our venues as well as staff altering their shifts to help out.” She added: “We had 15 venues last year and we are up to 20 this time.”

On Thursday, Accrington Library will host a ‘Lancashire Treasures’ valuation evening.

The Antiques Roadshow-style event will feature expert Allan Blackburn who will value people’s treasures and discuss the stories behind them.

And on Thursday and Friday, Blackburn and Darwen Libraries will host ‘Mystery History’ events, with children invited to be detectives by solving clues to work out what various unusual Victorian objects were used for.

On Friday, there will be a 200th anniversary celebration of the Tiger and Python exhibition at The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery in Rawtenstall.

Clitheroe Castle will host a medieval banquet featuring traditional food and the Gaita Medieval Music Ensemble, while Pendle Heritage Centre in Nelson will have a lantern parade.

And on Saturday, Queen Street Mill Textile Museum in Harle Syke, Burnley, will switch on its historic machines to show off the world’s last surviving steam-powered mill in action.

Events will also take place at the Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery and Wycoller Hall and Country Park, among others. Visit www.museumsatnight.org.uk